Dead blue whale washes ashore at Guhaghar beach in Maharashtra | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Dead blue whale washes ashore at Guhaghar beach in Maharashtra

Locals who thronged the beach to see the dead mammal claimed there were no injury marks on the whale’s body

mumbai Updated: Oct 07, 2016 23:52 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Officials from the state forest department said the carcass had washed ashore at 6.30am.  It was later buried at the beach itself
Officials from the state forest department said the carcass had washed ashore at 6.30am. It was later buried at the beach itself

On Friday morning a decomposed carcass of a 35-foot-long blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, washed ashore at Guhaghar beach in Ratnagiri district. This is the second such incident in the state within a month’s span and the fourth this year. Officials from the state forest department said the carcass had washed ashore at 6.30am.

“We reached the spot by 7am and found that the mammal’s internal organs had come out. Since the body was in a highly decomposed state, it could be concluded that the whale had died a fortnight ago in the deep sea,” said Vikas Jagtap, divisional forest officer (Chiplun), Ratnagiri.

Jagtap said the carcass was buried at the beach itself. “Since the body had already decomposed, we could not conduct a post-mortem. However, the mammal’s tissue samples were collected and will be sent to the state mangrove cell in Mumbai for further analysis,” he said.

Speaking to HT, residents who thronged the beach to see the dead mammal claimed there were no injury marks on the whale’s body. “The actual size of the whale could have been over 42-feet. Since the carcass was highly decomposed, it was difficult to ascertain it length,” said Akshay Khare, a Guhaghar resident.

Scientists said maximum number of dead marine mammals in India, in the past one year, have recorded along Maharashtra’s coastline. “The authorities must immediately carry out pollution and microbial studies to test the bacteria along the coast of Maharashtra. However, the cause of death could be because of any of senescence (old age), disease, fishing gear entanglement, or vessel (propeller) hit or even sound pollution at deep seas,” said E Vivekanandan, consultant and scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).

Expert opinion

Cetacean (whale and dolphin) experts said while there were numerous cases of beaching recorded from the state, the level of awareness among people is much more than it was four years ago. “Considering the state of cetacean research earlier, people were unaware of what whales, porpoises, etc were. But in the short span of just one year, this scenario has changed drastically,” said Ketki Jog from the Konkan Cetacean Research team under the United Nations Development Programme. “Since we lack answers, an in-depth research and capacity building at the regional level is the need of the hour.”

Past instances of whale beaching in Maharashtra

September 2016: A 47-foot-long blue whale was rescued from a beach near village Madban, close to Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Ratnagiri district. It was rescued by forest officials using two boats and 50 people.

February 2016: Another blue whale (40-foot-long) was rescued during a nine-hour-long rescue operation near Dapoli, Ratnagiri, which was the first ever successful rescue operation carried out along the coast of Maharashtra for the largest mammal in the world. A 20-member team rescued the mammal with the help of two boats.

January 2016: Carcass of a 40-foot-long Bryde’s Whale (male) washed ashore at Juhu beach on January 29. The whale remained beached for 17 hours and could not be rescued. The carcass was burnt and buried at the beach.

August 2015: A decomposed carcass of a 22-foot -long blue whale washed ashore at Alibaug. Forest officials buried the body at the beach itself.

June 2015: A 42-foot-long blue whale beached at Alibaug. Several attempts made by the forest department and local fishermen from the area to push the whale back into the sea remained futile, following which the whale died. The rescue operation lasted for 18 hours.

Did you know?

Known to weigh an average of 20 tons as adults, the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) falls under the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1986.